China Is Forcibly Sterilizing Muslim Uighur Women: Report


Jun 30, 2020


Image Credit: AP

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated since its initial publication.

Muslim Uighur women in China — part of an ostracized Turkic-speaking ethnic minority group mainly in the Xinjiang region — are being forced to undergo sterilizations by the state, in order to stall the growth of the Uighur community in the country, an Associated Press investigation found.

Uighur women have shed light upon this practice before, but the AP finds the forced sterilization to be way more widespread and pervasive than previously believed. Muslim Uighur women are being forced to undergo pregnancy checks, sterilization, abortion, and the implantation of IUDs.

The report shows the use of sterilization procedures increasing in Xinjiang, but decreasing in the rest of the country. 

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“It links back to China’s long history of dabbling in eugenics….you don’t want people who are poorly educated, marginal minorities breeding quickly,” James Leibold, a specialist in Chinese ethnic policy, told AP. 

While shocking, state-sponsored sterilization has long enjoyed institutional support, even outside of authoritarian regimes such as China. In India, for example, since the Emergency, millions of people, including men, were incentivized (or coerced) to undergo sterilization in exchange for money or land. The Indian state carried out these sterilization drives for decades until the camps were finally banned in 2016. State-sponsored sterilization camps were deeply criticized at the time for incentivizing poor families with money and other resources, which translated into women often being coerced to undergo sterilization procedures they often couldn’t understand completely. 

Be it in China, where minority groups are facing persecution by a regime obsessed with creating “equal” families, or in India, where poor families were incentivized for participating in sterilization drives, there has always been an element of coercion that has existed in state-sponsored methods targeted toward population control. After the 2016 ban, for example, there’s been a push to get more males to opt for sterilization procedures. The plan isn’t working, which has pushed some state governments to employ desperate tactics — a recent controversy arose after a circular from the Madhya Pradesh government asking its health officials to get at least one male sterilized (or face salary cuts) attracted criticism, following which the government withdrew the mandate. 

The cases of China and India are not comparable, and the motives of the two governments even less so, but they shed vital light upon what reproductive justice advocates all around the world have been stressing for years — attempting to control the population by mandating sterilization is abuse, overt or otherwise. If governments were to empower people with consent-focused sex education, accessible and affordable healthcare and related information, and prioritized the wellbeing of the people they vow to serve, it would create a healthier environment for people to make better decisions about their health, and in turn, their families. 


Written By Rajvi Desai

Rajvi Desai is The Swaddle’s Culture Editor. After graduating from NYU as a Journalism and Politics major, she covered breaking news and politics in New York City, and dabbled in design and entertainment journalism. Back in the homeland, she’s interested in tackling beauty, sports, politics and human rights in her gender-focused writing, while also co-managing The Swaddle Team’s podcast, Respectfully Disagree.


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